Even though the Texas Legislature is not officially in session, plenty of work occurs during the interim to prepare for lawmakers’ return to Austin. Throughout the interim, the Texas Right to Life Legislative staff monitors, attends, and testifies in numerous meetings, hearings, and events, including three recent committee hearings that could potentially impact Pro-Life legislation in the upcoming Session of the 86th Texas State Legislature.
Texas Right to Life’s General Counsel, Emily Cook, testified at a hearing of the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) regarding the Texas Ethics Commission. The LBB is tasked with recommending to the legislature how much money should be appropriated to state agencies each biennium. Usually these budget hearings are mundane exercises, garnering little attention from the public. However, at this hearing the speech-regulating Texas Ethics Commission was requesting increased taxpayer funding. Thus, Cook and other allies of Texas Right to Life took the opportunity to educate members of the LBB on how the Texas Ethics Commission uses the taxpayer funds already appropriated to them. Their track record is abominable. The Texas Ethics Commission has deliberately and consistently sought to suppress the free speech rights of millions of Texans, including Texas Right to Life. Cook outlined examples of the ideologically-driven abuse that Texas Right to Life has encountered from the Commission. One of the more recent examples was levying ridiculous fines on Texas Right to Life Political Action Committee for voluntarily correcting finance reports two days after filing a report on time to reflect a mere $200 difference in Facebook ads. Emily Cook told the LBB, “The Commission has not managed the resources hardworking Texas taxpayers have already given the Commission. There are other programs in the state’s budget more worthy to receive our tax dollars than the TEC.” The Texas Ethics Commission’s ability to regulate Texans’ First Amendment rights is truly frightening and serves only to stop you from speaking in favor of candidates, measures, bonds, and policies important to you, including the Right to Life. The LBB will release their budget recommendations before the end of the year.
In the last year, there have been many headlines regarding recently-released maternal mortality and morbidity rates in Texas. At first, the released maternal morbidity rates were incredibly alarming for Texas women. Quickly however, researchers uncovered some of the reporting and data errors used in the initial study. Though the real numbers of deaths and injury during pregnancy and following birth in Texas are significantly lower than expected, the issue should still be a great concern to the Pro-Life community and Texans at large. The Texas Senate Committee on Health and Human Services held a hearing to review the data and recommendations for measures to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity among Texas’ mothers. Rebecca Parma, Texas Right to Life’s Political and Legislative Associate, submitted written testimony to the Senate committee, pointing to critical legal and methodological distinctions of which lawmakers must be aware in correctly assessing maternal death rates in Texas. Currently, “maternal death” is universally defined as occurring while a woman is “pregnant or within 42 days of termination of a pregnancy;” however, the data used to calculate Texas’ statistics miss a crucial sector of information by not incorporating abortion-related deaths. Separating deaths related to abortion complications from deaths related to childbirth undermines our understanding of the real rate of maternal death, while also cloaking how dangerous abortion really is. Parma continued:
Texas Right to Life is interested in protecting the health of pregnant women and reducing maternal deaths in Texas. We pursue this protection in our advocacy for better women’s health programs that send more taxpayer dollars to clean health providers that do not have a conflict of interest of selling Texas women elective abortions. Texas currently spends more money than ever on women’s preventative and primary health care and has recruited the highest number of providers around the state to participate in the new Healthy Texas Women Program. Furthermore, Texas Right to Life has spearheaded efforts to increase funding to the social service network of adoption agencies, maternity homes, pregnancy centers, and social service offices that help women maintain healthy lifestyles and access other programs to meet their social and health needs.
Texas Right to Life’s engagement in these hearings and meetings in the Capitol during the interim is a proactive way our Legislative Team prepares for upcoming battles during the legislative session. Additionally, Texas Right to Life’s Legislative Director, John Seago, has been holding weekly meetings in the Capitol with key staff members and elected officials to formulate the Pro-Life Priority Agenda for 2019. The early attention to life-saving bills, especially closing the loophole that does not protect precious babies who may have a disability from abortions after five months, is setting the ground work for a successful session. During the interim, grassroots activists should not be sidelined. The prospects of Pro-Life victories in Austin during the next session will be greatly affected by who is elected Speaker of the Texas House, which the grassroots are key in determining. Follow Texas Right to Life on Facebook and Twitter for updates on ways to get involved, and read the latest news for the movement at TexasRightToLife.com.